The Boston-Montreal tilt Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden was a thriller, to be sure, with the Bruins coming out on top with a 5-4 overtime win.
Sure, the Bruins have shown they can beat the Canadiens, and the Habs themselves have shown they're vulnerable this year, including in goal and now with injuries to their defense.
Boston won the last five meetings against Montreal this season, and they are the Eastern Conference's top seed. And though the Canadiens lost this contest, they still (finally) clinched a playoff berth by earning a point in the defeat.
Thus, the Habs will be in the playoffs, and if the postseason started right now, Montreal (eighth seed) and Boston (first) will clash in the opening round.
Sure, there's one more game to go in the regular season, and Montreal and the New York Rangers are tied for the seventh position. However, the Blueshirts own the tiebreaker by virtue of having more wins.
If the Habs (against Pittsburgh) and Rangers (in Philadelphia) both win their finales, New York would get the seventh spot, with Montreal being the eighth seed.
Now, I've talked about this before earlier in the year, but Boston-Montreal in the playoffs doesn't favor the Bruins.
If you believe in "hockey gods," then despite the regular-season records, you'll probably believe Montreal has some sort of an edge.
The Habs have owned the Bruins in the playoffs throughout hockey history. Yes, in 1971, the B's outscored everyone by over 100 goals and were clearly the league's best team, but they fell to rookie Ken Dryden and the Habs in seven in the first round.
It was in the spring of 1984 when an unknown named Steve Penney (another rookie) helped Montreal upset Boston in the opening round in a shocking sweep.
And who can forget 2002, when Boston was the top seed in the Eastern Conference, only to see Jose Theodore make miraculous save after save to help the eighth-seeded Habs on to the next round with a six-game triumph?
When Joe Thornton was sent to the penalty box for a double-minor in the sixth game with the score tied, you just knew Montreal was going to score. The Habs did, and it turned out to be the series winner.
Yes, the players are different now, the teams are different now. But once the playoffs start, throw out the season records. Everyone starts 0-0 in the postseason.
Goalie Tim Thomas—who will be 35 next week—may be the MVP of the Bruins and may be the top netminder in the league, but weren't we all raving about Byron Dafoe years ago?
In the playoffs, it's all about matchups. During the last Cup run for the Habs in 1993, yes, Patrick Roy was the savior, but you can't overlook the fact the Canadiens had somewhat of an easy ride without playing some of the top teams in the league.
Those Habs faced inferior teams like the Sabres and Islanders on their way to the Finals. Oh yeah, matchups are important in the playoffs, and I just don't feel comfortable, being a B's fan, seeing Boston-Montreal in the first round.
And, let's not forget, this is the Canadiens' 100th season, and it looks like they've overcome a lot of adversity—with the midseason slump, Carey Price's poor play, some players being mentioned hanging out with a gangster, and Guy Carbonneau's firing—and have finally made the playoffs.
Oh yeah, and the Habs' Alex Kovalev has turned it around after being sent home earlier in the season for a couple games. Kovalev led all skaters a week ago with nine points (with seven assists) and was named the "first star" in the NHL on Monday.
Perhaps the Habitants will come together and win at least one round, led by the rejuvenated Kovalev?
Boston-Montreal also will undoubtedly bring out a lot of emotion from both teams, and in an emotional series between two longtime rivals who have already played seven times during the season there's just no edge for either team, regardless of seasonal records.
Thus, as a Bruins fan, I desperately want to see Montreal finish seventh so the B's avoid a first-round matchup against the hated Habs. Pray for the Rangers to stumble in Philly in their final game of the regular season, and for the Habs to beat Pittsburgh.
Let's take our chances with the Rangers in the first round instead.
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